Wow! Did we have a great January hike! We hiked the West Lake and East Lake Chicopee Woods Trails at the Elachee Nature Science Center in Gainesville, GA. The weather was perfect, in the high to low 60’s with some sun.
We had 25 hikers, including men and women first-timers to regulars. As a matter of fact, I have implemented a registration process so we can better manage the number of people on the hikes with us. As always, during introductions before our volunteer carpool and caravan to the trail head, during the introductions, hikers were given background info on the Chicopee Woods trails, expected weather conditions, the Leave No Trace principles and were encouraged to talk with someone they did not know. And, after everyone was introduced to Paulette our sweep, the person at the back of the hike to ensure no line is left behind, everyone was reminded that ‘We are as fast as the slowest person’ because we strive to make hiking a pleasurable experience for all participants as each person takes in and enjoys Mother Nature up close and personal, at her best! As I am, Paulette is a certified Outings Leader and also certified in Wilderness First Aid.
After arriving at the trail head, we took our traditional group photo, with the brand new Hartfield’s Hikers banner! After some of us made a pit stop at the Nature Center, we gathered and off we went onto the trail, starting the loop on the West Lake trail. Well, everyone had a great time! There were many conversations going on, new friendships flourishing, laughter, camaraderie, all mixed with food and fun…a good time was being had by all.
A few of things I want to highlight include, the runners we had. Three of the hikers, one a first-time, had run half marathons, 5k & 10k races, they coalesced. We had a writer connect with an editor. And, to my pleasant surprise, two people, Julie and Jonathan, who had met on a previous hike, are now a couple! Several hikers who made New Year resolutions to improve their health were on the trail.
One of the newcomers, Joanne had previously told me she was shy. During the lunch break, as I checked on various hikers to ensure things were going good, I stood in the area where she was sitting and talking, she was so engaged that there was no need to ask if she was having a good time! I learned that Kristina, one of our young teachers was taking three of her students with us to the Martin Luther King Jr., Service weekend on Cumberland Island. (This is an annual weekend of service where we join with the Georgia Conservancy to help clean up the island.) Others had wandered over by the lake and as everyone else was enjoying their lunch and conversations with each other. Ian and Camear were taking candid photos.
We continued the hike on the East Lake side of the loop trail back to the trail head. Some of us, including me, hiked over to the Nature Center for a final pit stop since the restroom facilities at the lunch stop were closed. After we all reconvened in the parking lot, there were scattered chats among hikers describing their great adventure before our departure.
A few of us met up at Jaemor Farms for fresh fruits, vegetables and, pies and ice cream…oops! Yeah, we had some, including me. Umm they were delicious!
As we gathered in front of the cozy old fashioned heater inside the Jaemor Farms Market laughing, enjoying our trail stories and eating the delicious treats. We reminisced about some our childhood and young adult experiences and how we all felt so connected, comfortable with each other and supportive of healthy lifestyles. I talked about the great line of all natural supplements I, and others of us hikers use to sustain our health, weight and flexibility. We all vowed this was the beginning and/or continuation of a mindset that we all will strive to Live Our Life to the Fullest!!!